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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NATO Strikes Yugoslav Army After Pullout Stalls

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- NATO B-52 bombers caught two Yugoslav army battalions in the open after Serbia stalled on pulling its troops out of Kosovo and many hundreds of troops may have been killed, alliance sources said Tuesday.

"A lot of guys died down there yesterday that needn't have," a source said. "They could have saved themselves that."

The B-52s dropped sticks of gravity bombs on the troop concentrations near the Kosovo-Albania border on Monday, carpeting a hillside area where some 400 to 800 soldiers were estimated to have been in the field, they said.

NATO had no official comment on the report, and the sources said there was no way of knowing for sure how many troops were killed in the raid.

The 40-year-old, eight-engine B-52 Stratofortress is a formidable bomber with a long record of telling engagements, from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf War, where it was used against the Iraqi Republican Guard.

Despite major power agreement on a draft UN Security Council resolution that could bring a speedy end to the war, NATO said Tuesday that it would continue airstrikes until Serbian commanders agreed to pull out of Kosovo and started a verifiable withdrawal.

NATO hailed the landmark agreement by the West and Russia as "a clear road map" that could show the way to an early end to the conflict.

But there was no sign of withdrawal early Tuesday and no word of a final Yugoslav agreement to retreat according to the precise timetable and routes stipulated by NATO.

Two days of talks in Macedonia over the weekend between Serbian and NATO generals failed to secure Yugoslav compliance with the alliance's blueprint for withdrawal, despite Belgrade's agreement in principle last Thursday. The allies accused Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic of reneging on his promise and stalling implementation of the plan.

NATO spokesman Jamie Shea called on Milosevic to authorize his generals to resume talks with NATO commanders on a withdrawal from Kosovo.

Bombing raids that had been scaled back for the Serbs' meetings with British Lieutenant General Michael Jackson were ratcheted up again Monday after the setback, to keep the pressure on Milosevic and his commanders.

"I'm sure that if you were in the field in Kosovo in the Yugoslav army yesterday you wouldn't have perceived this as holding back at all," Shea said Tuesday.

"The pressure was very intense, particularly in the sorties that were carried out by the B-52s against the Serb fielded forces in the Mount Pastrik area."

In its first public estimate of Yugoslav military casualties of the 11-week bombing campaign, NATO said last week that more than 5,000 troops had been killed and more than 10,000 wounded.

As NATO approaches what Shea said could be the "final straight," the alliance will keep up the military pressure on Belgrade until Serbian forces withdraw from Kosovo. It will press ahead with preparing its peacekeeping force, and it will step up assistance to humanitarian bodies aiding refugees.